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Sudan, UN Clash Over Conditions in Darfur


The Sudanese Minister of Culture says the humanitarian situation in conflict-ridden Darfur is not as serious as it is usually painted in the media or by the United Nations. But U.N. aid agencies say they are not backing off from their grim assessment of conditions for civilians in Darfur.

Sudan Culture MInister Mohamed Yousif Abed Allah acknowledges conditions in Darfur are not great. But, he says the situation is far better than before.

For example, he notes infant and crude mortality rates are below the emergency level as set by the World Health Organization.

"This is a great success," he said. "The malnutrition rates also remain below the normal. In certain places, the malnutrition rates are higher in some parts of the Sudan, than in Darfur. Also, the area of providing clean water to the affected population in the camps was up 70 [percent] in certain areas and up to 65 percent in certain areas, which is the normal level of the capital of Sudan, of Khartoum."

The Sudanese minister says the situation is calm and peaceful in most of Darfur's 23 provinces and people there are leading normal lives. He says northern Darfur is the worst affected area.

Allah repeats his government's position that a U.N. peacekeeping force is both unnecessary and unacceptable. He says the African Union force is doing a good job in protecting security and should remain.

"We feel that African Union is doing fine and will continue to do well. The only problem it has is the resources. And we believe that the resources that could be provided for the U.N. peacekeeping forces should be provided for the African Union to carry out its activities," he said.

The World Food Program and U.N. Children's Fund have been providing humanitarian assistance to more than two million displaced people since the start of the Darfur conflict in 2003. They agree that aid agencies have managed to improve the nutritional situation of many of these people during the past two years.

But, WFP spokesman Simon Pluess, says it is extremely difficult for humanitarian agencies to work in Darfur.

He says some places are totally inaccessible.

"There were people who actually could not be served with food for about three months. So, you can imagine what this has as an impact on the nutritional situation of these people. So, the situation is far from being great," he said.

U.N. Human Rights spokesman, Jose Diaz, says reports by his office show the situation in Darfur is pretty awful and getting worse.

He said, "The situation where you have more than two million people displaced, where you have ongoing attacks against civilians, where you have women being raped and sexually assaulted regularly, where there is almost a generalized climate of impunity in relation to these human-rights violations, I think that speaks of a pretty dire situation."

Diaz says the African Union forces are doing a good job within their limited means, but he says a larger U.N. peacekeeping force should be sent to Darfur.

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